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"This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things."
Archer is the most recent brainchild from Adam Reed, the creator of Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo. Although it looks like it would be right at home on Adult Swim (who were nice enough to plug it in one of their bumps), it was passed over and found a home on the FX network instead. The series started in September 2009 and is still ongoing.
The focus is on titular protagonist Sterling Archer, an agent for the free-market spy agency known as ISIS, and his random misadventures both in and outside of the office walls. As competent as he is, the double edged sword is that he's a Jerkass, usually oblivious to everything except himself, and as crude as they come.
Word of God aptly describes the show as "James Bond meets Arrested Development". The show's humor, much like both Arrested Development and its spiritual predecessor Frisky Dingo, relies heavily on Call Backs and Running Gags alongside a large Ensemble Cast and Two Lines, No Waiting plots. A fan of Arrested Development or Frisky Dingo will almost certainly enjoy Archer, and conversely someone who found them repetitive or too low-key probably won't.
This series has a character sheet, a page listing tropes found on Archer's Twitter feed, and a page featuring enlightening interviews with the cast and creators.
Archer provides examples of:
- Accidental Innuendo: Generally called out by Archer with "Phrasing!"
Malory: You wanna play me hard?
Malory: Well, then, you better nut up!
Malory: Because I've swallowed just about all I'm going to take from you.
Archer: Hey! Phrasing!
- Action Girl:
- Malory, based on various flashbacks and the fact that she was able to shoot her son six times in the torso with what was revealed the next season to be a .44 magnum. She expresses pride that all six shots were grouped "in the '10 ring.'"
- Pam pulls a little Suddenly Always Knew That on this trope, suddenly revealing that she's an underground bare-knuckle boxer who can snap a man's neck and take a punch like a champ. She's even got "The Destruction of Sennacherib" tattooed on her back under 13 tally marks. Oh, and she drift-races against the Yakuza.
- Katya Kazanova, a female KGB agent.
- Actually Pretty Funny:
- Archer, Pam and Cheryl are amused by the pirate animation that accompanies the computer worm in "Tragical History".
- Malory, in Double Trouble.
Archer: Katya does not have VD!
Malory: You haven't had sex with her?
Archer: Ha ha, for your infor... heh, that was pretty good.
- Pam, in "Space Race"
Pam: [angrily] And then you dump me for your big-titted Russian sexbot, little miss... uh...
Pam: Hah, yeah!
- Aesop Amnesia: Archer sets a speed record with this in Space Race Part 2. He learns an important lesson about it not always being about him at the end, and refuses to engage in a one-on-one fight with Barry...only to turn right around and demand that he is allowed to land the shuttle.
- Affably Evil: Rona Thorne turns out to be a Soviet sleeper agent but never stops being genuinely nice to Lana.
- All Germans Are Nazis:
- All Jews Are Ashkenazi: Conway Stern sports an Ashkenazi last name, despite the fact that he's black. It's later revealed that his identity is just a cover, so he apparently used an Ashkenazi name to help "prove" his identity to the clueless gentiles at ISIS.
- Alliterative Name: Katya Kazanova
- Always Wanted to Say That
Sterling Archer: I have waited my entire life to say this exact phrase: I am commandeering this airboat!
- Amusing Injuries: Variously Deconstructed and Reconstructed; while the injuries are almost always initially Played for Laughs, several times characters have had to seek advanced medical attention afterwards;
- Lana's eardrums are ruptured when Archer fires a shotgun near her head,
- Ray needs a CAT scan after a Tap on the Head (again, from Archer) leaves him unconscious for over an hour,
- Barry suffers increasingly severe injuries from the Running Gag of - guess who? - dropping him off tall buildings; eventually culminating in needing to be rebuilt as a cyborg.
- For Butt Monkey Brett, this is a Running Gag.
- During the two part season 3 finale, Archer shoots both Cyril and Pam with the space gun's ion pulse, which can stop someone's heart. He shot Cyril for his own amusement and Pam to keep her quiet.
Archer: So... "stun" may be a bit of a misnomer.
- Anachronism Stew: 1960s decor, 1970s cars, early 1980s computers, alongside modern cell phones, the internet and a number of modern pop-culture references. The Soviet Union apparently still exists, which makes this outright Alternate History, although Leningrad is referred to as St. Petersburg, and world map shown in "Tragical History" indicates that Russia and the former Republics are all independent, and Germany is apparently reunified. Lampshaded when Malory poses a rhetorical question, "What year is this?!" Sterling responds, "I know, right?"
- And Starring: Jessica Walters.
- And Zoidberg
Archer: Yeah, listen - doctor - I'm kinda making peace with my loved ones right now... Plus some other people.
- Artistic License Chemistry: While Archer's assumption that dry ice is "hundreds of degrees below" could be handwaved as his being a moron, it is in fact nowhere near as deadly as "Pipeline Fever" depicts it to be when Lana reaches into Archer's cooler. Also, keeping in mind that dry ice solidifies at minus 78 degrees Celsius, all the beer (and the one water bottle) in the cooler should have been frozen solid.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: During the "modified Ludovico" treatment, among the words displayed in quick succession are "war", "famine", "dead puppy", and "old people".
- Artificial Gravity: Aboard the space station Horizon.
- As Himself: Burt Reynolds.
- Asian Speekee Engrish: Played straight and subverted in Heart of Archness:
Rip Riley: Archer! What a coincidence, 'cause I was just talking about you.
Archer: With who? 'cause that bucktoothed little shit doesn't even speak English.
Bucky: I do, rittle bit.
Archer: No you don't!
Bucky: And correct syntax is 'with whom!'
- Asshole Victim:
- Frequently. Sterling himself can count as a non-lethal version of this as well - the man gets shot and stabbed and beaten and tortured and cancer and generally abused a lot, but he's such a Jerkass you just don't feel bad for it. Usually, he had it coming.
- Barry Dillon. Now refferred to as 'Bionic Barry' after a particularly grievous accident.
- Aside Glance: Archer does this occasionally, but often it's so subtle you don't notice it.
- Ass Shove: In an interrogation in Placebo Effect, Archer inserts a grenade into the rectum of a mook, and opines "The mark-II [fragmentation grenade] has kind of nubbily ridges, do you feel those? Different circumstances [it] might actually feel good."
- A-Team Firing: Frequently done and lampshaded as it happens, such as the KGB pelting Archer and Barry with machine gun fire in "White Nights" and missing every single shot. Also in "Double Trouble where Archer, Katya, Mallory, Lana, Cyril and Ray have a full standing blast-out until everyone is out of ammo and nobody gets hit.
- Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other
- Familial version at the end of season one with Sterling and his mother, though, she had just shot him six times in the torso.
- Archer admitting that Lana is his only friend may count.
- Bad Boss: Malory. The list of grievances from her employees is pretty long, but the most trope worthy offense has got to be her cold-blooded murder of the entire team of cleaning ladies in an elevator "accident" when they threatened to unionize for better working conditions.
- Bad Liar: Dr. Krieger:
Cheryl: Wait, how do you know Portugese?
Krieger: Because I grew up in Braz...istol County, Rhode Island. Lot of Portugese in Rhode Island.
Cyril: Where you're from.
Krieger: Born and raised.
Cyril: What's the state capital?
Krieger: Leave me alone! I am not a Nazi!
Cyril: What about your father?
Krieger: No! He was a scientist!
Cyril: Pretty sure the Nazis had scientists.
Krieger: No! That's why we...hurgh...they lost the war! Lack of science!
- Badass Bookworm: Cyril, of all people, in "El Contador". Archer and Lana assume he'll be a terrible field agent due to his poor combat skills and the fact that he wanders around a death trap-filled jungle with his nose in the mission briefing. But when he gets caught, he manages to use his knowledge of the gang and fluent Spanish to pass himself off as a fellow member of The Cartel, while the others are so obviously spies they get arrested on sight.
- Bald of Awesome: Conway Stern seems to be this, until he reveals that he's a Double Agent and therefore actually Bald of Evil.
- Batman Gambit: Lana's plan to get back at Cyril for cheating on her. She offers the men at the office to pay to pretend they had sex with her and tell Cyril the nastiest thing they can think of. When Pam points out that the men may demand refunds if one of the men points out that they didn't have sex with Lana nor did anyone else, Lana replies that it's not a problem because nobody would dare be the first one to admit he didn't have sex.
- Beef Bandage: Conway provides Cyril with one from Cheryl's endless gifts of unrefrigerated meat and/or seafood.
- Beleaguered Assistant:
- Archer's butler Woodhouse takes all kinds of scorn and verbal abuse from his employer.
"Look, he's sitting at the table! He thinks he's people!"
- When Archer becomes the Pirate King, Noah the "first mate" becomes this.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Archer and Lana. Lampshaded by the rest of the group as they escape Pirate Island.
- Berserk Button:
- Archer tends to have a minor freakout every time someone so much as hints at his mother having sex.
- He also tends to have a random one per episode.
Assassin: "Hand over the girl, cochino!
Archer: "And that is just it for today, with people calling me a freaking pig! (lights assassin on fire) ...Holy shit, did you see that?
- Big Eater: Pam always mentions wanting some kind of food.
Pam: (standing over two burning bodies) Is it weird that I'm kind of hungry now?
Malory: It would be weirder if you weren't.
- Big No: End of season 2, when Barry and Katya land on Krieger's beloved van.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: Cyril has a big dick, which he seems to dislike, and actually tries to get ISIS to pay to have it shortened.
- Bilingual Bonus: Quite a lot due to the globe-trotting nature of the show.
- Ramon Limon's end of some phone conversations in "Honeypot". His responses imply that his mother is bugging him about why he doesn't have a girlfriend...
- Framboise means raspberry in French.
- After Barry fires Framboise for having sex with Archer, Framboise says "You don't have a heart!" to Barry in French.
- In Swiss Miss:
Malory: It's Fraulein Archer.
Archer: She added desperately.
- The episode "Placebo Effect" gives us two instances: In the earlier part of the episode, Archer and Krieger discuss his cancer in Portuguese, and later in the episode, Cyril questions why Krieger was raised in Brazil in German.
- Lana speaks French to hotel staff in "Jeu Monegasque"
- In "El Contador" Cyril speaks Spanish. (The episode title is also Spanish for "The Accountant")
- "Drift Problem" features some Japanese from the Yakuza. Pam thought they were calling her "the White Shadow", but they reveal that it means "the White Pumpkin".
- Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Katya Kasanova does this to Lana, although she doesn't actually drop them (y'know, man hands).
- Blond Guys Are Evil:
- In "Double Deuce," the sniveling former second-in-command who is likely behind the murder plot is also the only blond guy in the Double Deuce. And then it's subverted when it turns out there is no murder plot to begin with.
- Barry by the end of season 2.
- Bond One-Liner:
- Generally subverted by Archer, who constantly flubs his one-liners or has to explain them to the others because they don't get his references.
Archer: Damn, I... had something for this, too... um... damn it. Eat grenade, stupids!
- Played straight with Conway Stern, who annoys Archer and Lana by always having the right one-liner (except at the end of Operation Frodo, because he doesn't know anything about Lord of the Rings).
Lana: Shit, I had something for this!
Conway: Was it something like..."You won't get off the hook that easy?"
Archer: Yeah, he's good at those.
- Bottomless Magazines:
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: During the car chase in "The Man from Jupiter," the Cuban assassins' vans fly off the road into the water in two identical (save for the vehicles) sequences. Archer notices this, somehow.
"Wait, was that the same footage?"
- Briefcase Full of Money: One instance is a decoy containing a single muffin. It's a bit of wordplay used to lampshade that the contents of the briefcase are a MacGuffin. You could call it a MacMuffin.
- Brick Joke: The very first episode opens with a not so heinous scene of Archer goofing off in an "Electric Torture by the KGB" training scenario. Late in season two, guess what he's faced with?
Archer: Kinda wishing I'd paid more attention to my training right now. Which is, uh, pretty rare for me.
- In Dial M for Mother, while pushing a stroller through a park Trinette, has a confrontation the assassin Mannfred at a playground. After Mannfred threatens her with a pistol, Trinette tells us that the baby's father knows Krav Maga, which Training Day establishes is used by ISIS agents. In season two's Blood Test, its revealed that Trinette believes Archer to be the baby's father.
- In "Drift Problem," a fake fire drill is used to lead Archer to his birthday car surprise. Archer grabbed Ray out of his wheelchair and carried him outside. At the time, it was assumed that Ray was paralyzed due to an injury from a mission. Archer drops Ray at the sight of the car, leading Ray to say, "Ow!...I think." This seemingly throwaway joke led to The Reveal in "Bloody Ferlin". Ray is found on a ladder, giving away that he was never paralyzed. He was wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair as standard procedure, and the others mistook this for paralysis. However, he used the mix-up for every opportunity he could get.
- Trinette is introduced in Training Day, when Archer introduces her to Cyril. She later appears, toting a baby she thinks is Archer's but is actually Cyril's.
- Bulletproof Human Shield:
- In one episode, Archer is teaching Cyril how to act like an agent and shoots cubes of ice at Cyril with a slingshot. Cyril grabs a nearby call girl and pulls her into the line of fire. Archer is delighted, the call girl less so.
- In a literal example, Archer uses a bulletproof vest-wearing Cheryl as cover during a gunfight, even though he's supposed to be protecting her.
Archer: Shut up! That vest is bulletproof!
Cheryl: (relieved) Oh. (Gets shot in the arm) Ow!
Archer: But it is, you know, a vest.
- Bullying a Dragon: Cyril tries to get back at Sterling by revealing that Archer knocked up a hooker who, ironically, was actually carrying Cyril's child.
- Franny Delaney, leader of The Irish Mob, believes that Archer won't shoot an unarmed, sick man, because of a sense of fair play. Of course, up to this point Delaney has swapped out cancer drugs for fakes, which has led to the death of Archer's Morality Pet Ruth and countless others. Then, Delaney chooses to describe how he's hooked up with Malory. Graphically.
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: Pretty much everyone in this series. No matter how dysfunctional they are, they all turn out to be good at their jobs, if only when they are given a reason to be.
- Krieger, despite being insane and not a medical doctor (or technically the other kind of doctor) manages to perform brain surgery successfully--while high on acid.
- At one point someone outright states that Archer is an excellent field agent in spite of being completely clueless at everything else.
- But Liquor Is Quicker:
Pam: And that's why I don't have sex with my coworkers. That, and no one ever lets me.
Krieger: I've had good results with ether.
- Pam's line becomes Hilarious in Hindsight in Season 3.
Cheryl: You can't control a person's heart.
Krieger: You can with a little something I like to call a deep cycle marine battery...or LSD.
- But Not Too Black: Lana.
Archer: You're black...ish.
Archer: Well what's the word for it, Lana? You freaked out when I said 'quadroon'!
- But You Screw One Goat!: Malory's relationship with her deceased dog Duchess. Several episodes feature a photo of them both that parodies the famous portrait of a naked John Lennon curled around Yoko Ono.
- Butt Monkey: Pretty much any interaction with Archer is going to end up with someone being this.
- Cyril as of Season Two
- Poor Pam is probably the straightest example.
- Brett, who's been beaten up by Lana and shot by both Rona and Cyril. And got his ass beat by Archer after mocking him for having breast cancer. And was shot twice by Archer in season one before ever appearing onscreen. ("God DAMN it, Archer!")In "El Sequestro", he takes a bullet in the stomach early on and spends the rest of the episode bleeding there, even getting yelled at for not picking up the ringing phone fast enough.
- Oh Barry... you ass!
- Gillette rapidly becomes one in the course of "Heart of Archness," losing one eye and the use of his legs in separate accidents. Most of his coworkers are not very sympathetic. He was faking it.
- Call Back: One of the show's main sources of humor, often spanning multiple shows.
- Running gags from Frisky Dingo
- The car alarm gag in the second season.
- Jakov's Assistant often uses the phrase "Come on, buddy" in the very same way as Ronnie, with the same Russian accent.
- "Heart of Archness" even gives us an Asian character saying "What the hell, damn guy?"
- "What the hell, damn guy?" also makes an appearance in "El Contador".
- Mr. Ford's ass is everywhere.
- Sea Lab 2021
- The exclamation "Cheesey Petes!" is used by various characters, but usually Cyril.
- In the season 2 episode "White Nights", Archer is captured by the KGB and interrogated in a manner identical to the training exercise at the beginning of the pilot. He even mentions that he probably should have taken his training more seriously.
- Episode 1, Malory beats Sterling with her wallet, and Sterling responds "What the hell does she keep in that thing, buckles?". Rays echoes the exact same phrase in "Jeu Monegasque".
- In "Pipeline Fever", Lana remarks how she became an ISIS agent and ends with "Three weeks later, I was in Tunisia killing a man". Three episodes later in "Movie Star", Malory talks about her becoming an agent and ends with the same line.
- In "El Contador", Archer quickly but incorrectly guesses that "the most dangerous game" is jai alai, calling back to his injury playing the sport in "Honey Pot".
- Running gags from Frisky Dingo
- Camp Gay:
- Played with in the episode where Archer has to pretend to be gay to seduce a gay spy. Being the bigoted Jerkass he is, he dresses up ridiculously campy (bleached hair, lollipop, roller skates, hot pants, and a too-tight t-shirt that reads "GOT DICK?"), and gets mocked by two real gay guys... who are still campy, though not so outrageously. The spy he's trying to seduce, meanwhile, is completely Straight Gay.
"Oh my God, you, like, sneeze glitter!"
- Gillette. Which doesn't stop him from being one of the more competent characters. However, he's still willing to sleep with Lana since, as he puts it, "No one's that gay."
- Can't Bathe Without a Weapon: lampshaded in 'Jeu Monegasque';
Archer: "...my gun's all soapy. Pretty dumb, taking a bath with it..."
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Archer at the very end of 'Swiss Miss'. He is accused (wrongfully) of molesting and propositioning a 16-year-old Anka throughout the entire episode. Not two seconds after he has to cup Anka's breasts to prevent nerve damage (a legitimate reason), Lana shows up.
- Earlier, he finally got tired of people calling him a pig, so he set the guy on FIRE
- Casting Gag:
- Jeffrey Tambor as the head of ODIN, who's in a somewhat tumultuous romance with Jessica Walter's Malory. The two voice actors had a similar dynamic in Arrested Development
- Malory, voiced by Jessica Walter, is a wealthy, hard-drinking, Jerkass mother with a long sexual past and a co-dependent son, very similar to her character in Arrested Development.
- Although differently crazy between series, Judy Greer was a crazy Plucky Office Girl in Arrested Development and plays a similar role as Cheryl in this series.
- When Archer is identified as a fake homosexual by Charles, he is dressed very similar to a gay prostitute who was always being caught by the police on Reno 911, in which Thomas Lennon (who voices Charles) stars.
- Turns out Burt Reynolds is every bit as much a crazy Badass in real life as the characters he plays.
- Casual Danger Dialog: Adam Reed shows always use this trope. Of specific highlight is Lana's (knockoff) Fiacci underwear, discussed during gunfights and bomb defusals.
- Catch Phrase:
- Lana's "Yyyyyyyyyyuup!" (or, occasionally, "Noooooooooope!")
- Archer's "Danger zone!" said to Lana. Also "Do you not?"
- "Hostile work environment!"
- Ray has "Dukes!" and "Double dukes!" and "Triple dukes!"
- Pam's "Holy shitsnacks!"
- "...Also, yes."
- "Come on, buddy."
- "What an asshole!"
- "God damn it Archer!"
- "Barry, you ass!"
- "I swear to God I had something for this."
- "(Holy shit,) Did you see that!?"
- "Yes it is, other Barry."
- "Cause that's how we get ants!"
- "Wow, that's actually... much better than what I had. Wow."
- "And who are you? Comrade Questions!?"
- "My earballs!"
- "You're not my supervisor!"
- "Later, Tater."
- "Just like the Gypsy woman said!"
- Season 3 has introduced a catch gesture: holding a finger up while finishing a drink.
- Caught with Your Pants Down:
- Archer walks in on his mother during a very important call in the first episode.
- Barry catches Archer doing Framboise, his fiancé, in his new office at ODIN.
- Archer catches Barry doing Katya, his fiancé, during their fight at ISIS.]]
- Character Blog: Sterling Archer's Twitter feed.
- Chekhov's Gun: Archer gives a gun, branded "Chekhov", to Cyril along with a poison pen and adds that the gun occasionally goes off unexpectedly and the pen's cap tends to slip off for no reason. Later on... nothing happens with the Chekhov gun, but the pen is responsible for poisoning a hooker. So let's see, that's lampshading, parody, subversion, discussion and playing it straight?
Archer: "God, I SAID the cap slips off the poison pen for no reason, didn't I?!"
Cyril: "I know, I know, but I just assumed that if anything bad happened it-it would've been-"
Archer: "No, do NOT say the Chekhov gun Cyril! THAT, sir, is a facile argument!"
Woodhouse: "Also woefully esoteric."
- Chew Toy: Season two seems to have made Archer himself the constant Chew Toy. Every episode has ended with him getting the raw end of the stick. In order: Caught in a compromising position with a topless teenage heiress,(It wasn't what it looked like) being left caring for Cyril's bastard son, being left stranded in a swamp with an injured, pissed off gator while Lana went to get wined and dined by an eco terrorist, and getting pistol whipped by Woodhouse, being poisoned by a Russian sleeper agent, being diagnosed, then undiagnosed, then diagnosed, then undiagnosed, then finally diagnosed with cancer, and then his fiance (whom he actually seems to genuinely care for, for once) dies protecting him.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Archer is NOT one of these, except when it comes to Anka. Despite her being from a place where the age of consent is 14, he steadfastly refuses to touch her since she's only 17. Not that it helps.
- Chubby Chaser: Pam is targeted by a Chubby Chaser in one episode, much to Malory's disgust, as Malory was trying to seduce the man for her own agenda. Somehow by the end of the episode, all three end up in bed together.
- Clothing Damage: Goes way over the top in "Space Race"; after Lana strips off for a Show Some Leg guard-distraction, Archer rips up her clothes, and subsequent events force her to stay in nothing but panties and nipple stickers for most of the episode. To add to the insult, people keep commenting about her boobs' 'journey south'...
- Cloudcuckoolander: Cheryl, who keeps changing her name, stands out even amongst this group. Dr. Krieger also surges into this trope as the series progresses. Not surprisingly, they start dating.
- Cluster F-Bomb: No one is averse to cursing, but when Lana accidentally grabs some dry ice, she responds with fully two minutes of cursing. Malory does this to Ray, Cyril and Lana at the beginning of Season 3 when they fail to locate Stirling.
- Cold War: Still going on...sort of.
- Connect the Deaths: Krieger's plan for Disposing of a Body is for the ISIS agents to drop the dissected body parts in various trashcans around the city "which should form the shape of a smiley face". One-off gag, his own Ax Crazy sense of humour, or brilliant ruse to convince the cops it's the work of a playful serial killer?
- Cool Versus Awesome: Invoked at the end of the third season, when Barry offers Archer the chance to pilot an Aliens-style Mini-Mecha against him to even the playing field, as Barry is a superhuman cyborg. It takes every ounce of Archer's self-control to resist.
- Conspicuous CG:
- The aerial shots of the Monaco Grand Prix racers in "Jeu Monegasque".
- The helicopter in "Heart of Archness, Part III".
- Pretty much every vehicle in Season 3.
- Continuity Nod: Tons.
- Several of Archer's one night stands have reappeared (one with a baby too...)
- Uta wearing a t-shirt with the Excelsior's insignia
- Scatterbrain Jane having breast cancer
- Archer's 'Seamus' and 'Dicky' tattoos on his back make another appearance in "Jeu Monegasque."
- The clothes Charles and Rudy bought Woodhouse in "Honey Pot" show up in "Stage Two"
- In "Dial M For Mother," Archer is kidnapped and strapped to an operating table. On his feet are scars from when Lana shot him through the foot in "Skorpio" and "Skytanic."
- Malory finds the whole office talking in the bathroom and tells Pam that she's not even supposed to be in there. In an earlier episode it's revealed that the office staff hid the existence of the women's bathroom from Pam. Once Pam found out, Malory still forbade her from using it.
- Cool Car: Archer gets one which is a direct nod to Bond's various vehicles. Of course he doesn't get to keep it.
- Country Matters: Cheryl's real last name is "Tunt." This is the subject of a few puns.
Archer: Tum again?
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: While being a complete moron, Archer is more than competent at violence when the situation arises.
Archer: Well, you never know what's gonna be on the board...
- Crying Wolf: Given Archer's tendency to lie through his teeth and seduce anything within a 500-yard radius, his ISIS coworkers are a bit skeptical that it's actually Anka who's trying to bed him.
- In "El Secuestro," most of the office assumes Cheryl chained herself to a radiator as part of her murder fetish behavior (it was an attempted kidnapping). Lampshaded when Gilette calls her "Little Miss Cry-Wolf"
- Cucumber Facial
- Cultured Badass: Burt Reynolds, who in addition to being able out-fight and out-drive Sterling, is able to Epiphany Therapy him through his Parent with New Paramour issues.
- Curse Cut Short: In the pilot:
Lana: After the lying, and the cheating, and that thing with the mayonnaise...
Cyril: It's fine.
Lana: ...not to mention how messed up he is about his mother...
Cyril: It's fine.
Lana: You know, he once called out her name while we were f-
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Archer makes strange threats when he's angry with Woodhouse:
- "If I find a single dog hair, I'll rub sand in your dead little eyes. Also, I need you to go buy sand. I don't know if they grade it, but... coarse."
- "I'm going to pain you dearly, when I peel off all your skin with a flensing knife, then sew it into Woodhouse pajamas, and then set those pajamas on fire!"
- "And now I have to spend the first Friday I've had off in forever coming up with some bizarre punishment for you! So, don't be surprised if you end up eating a bunch of spider webs."
- Danger Room Cold Open: The pilot.
- Dating Catwoman: Malory is having a secret relationship with Colonel Jakov, head of the KGB and routinely gives up intel to him, even though he never asks it from her. He's also one possibility for Archer's dad.
- Dead Baby Comedy: When the show isn't sexual Squick, it's this. In one memorable, literal example:
Archer: "Don't you want a grandkid?"
Malory: "Well, if I did, I'd just scrape all your previous mishaps into a big pile and knit a onesie for it."
Archer: "...Jesus Christ."
- At Trinette's baby shower Cheryl's present is a box of plastic laundry bags and a book about SIDS.
- "I liked him better when he had cancer."
- When Malory remembers having to pay the funeral expenses for the Pygmies who chopped down the super-rare tree to make their conference table.
Malory: I bet that bastard just pocketed the money and stuck them all in one medium-sized grave.
- It's safe to say this shows up in every episode, at least once..
- Deadly Dodging: Burt Reynolds gets the Cuban gangsters to shoot each other in "The Man From Jupiter".
- Deadly Hug: Conway Stern betrays Archer with one of these.
- Deadpan Snarker: Pam. especially around Carol/Cheryl.
- Description Cut: When Pam is kidnapped in El Sequestro;
Malory I'm sure Pam is fine.
Pam [tied to a chair, being repeatedly punched in the face by her kidnapper] Who taught you how to punch? Your husband?
- Description Porn: The introductory video for Archer's Cool Car. And when we say "porn", that's certainly the effect it as on him.
- Discriminate and Switch:
Mallory: I am not. Why, because I don’t want Archer to end up with a woman like Lana Kane? My God, a black... ops field agent?
Pam: I thought she was going in a whole other direction with that.
- Disney Death: Archer and Lana get one, complete with an onlooker saying No One Could Survive That.
- Disposable Sex Worker: Referenced by Archer (though the trope itself is ultimately subverted)
Archer: Oh my god, you killed a hooker!
Cyril: Callgirl! She was a callgirl!
Archer: No, Cyril! When they're dead, they're just hookers!
- Disposing of a Body: The plot of "Lo Scandalo". This turns out to be one of those rare things Krieger is disturbingly competent at; he hacks up the body in a bathtub, calls up the other agents and gives them brown paper packages to drop in separate locations around the city.
- The Dog Bites Back:
- Woodhouse has had several with Archer: locking him out of his apartment when ISIS briefly fired Archer, allowing Archer's co-workers to throw a babyshower for the hooker Archer knocked up in his apartment without his permission, as well as the revelation that several times a year, Woodhouse knocks Archer unconscious and then convinces him he blacked out after a wild bender.
- Pam in "El Secuestro":
Pam: "Let's see how much you wiggle when I whoop five thousand dollars worth of your ass!"
- Double Agent: Katya Kasanova is believed to be this by both Malory and Lana, even more so when she was seen in Doctor Krieger's research lab with his "secret project", and the KGB listed her file as double agent. As it turns out, she's not, she's merely in love with Archer, and Krieger was helping her throw a dream wedding since his would never be. Nicolai Jakov merely altered her file to read double agent as counterintelligence, and to cover his own ass with his superiors.
- Double Standard Rape (Female on Male): In "Swiss Miss", Archer finds himself in several compromising positions with the sexually aggressive piece of Jail Bait he's assigned to protect.
- Dude, He's Like, In A Coma- Cyril is smashed over the head with a bottle and knocked unconscious. Then he is given a shot of heroin and drained of a dangerous amount of blood leading both Pam and Gillette to have their way with him.
- Embarrassing Cover Up: "Lo Scandalo": Malory kills the Italian PM in the middle of a bondage session, knowing that Archer's disgust and Lana's disapproval will distract them from suspecting her as the culprit.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Sterling Malory Archer, code name "Duchess," after his mother's deceased dog. Malory considered "Reginald," but decided that it was "too gay."
- Enemy Mine: When Archer is captured by the KGB, Malory recruits Barry to rescue him as Lana can't go undercover adequately there.
- Erotic Asphyxiation: Cheryl's fetish. Also that of one of Woodhouse's old war buddies.
Stripes:...Plus what he named his plane.
Woodhouse: I always thought that had something to do with the engine. Well, here's to you, Choke and Stroke!
- Europeans Are Kinky
- Konrad Schlotz, a German Chubby Chaser hot for Pam
- His 16-year-old daughter, Anka, appears to be a nymphomaniac. It's a front.
- The Prime Minister of Italy ends up dead in Malory's apartment, strapped into a seatless chair, wearing a zentai suit, and with something shoved up his ass. According to Malory, though, the development of this kinkiness was a drawn-out process in the relationship.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Mikey Hannity seems genuinely disturbed at the notion that he's been helping replace chemotherapy meds with placebos.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Lana, for Pam and Cheryl at the very least.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep"/Only One Name: Doctor Krieger; his 401k actually has the word "doctor" instead of a first name.
- Everyone Has Standards: Archer may be an utter whoremonger and slut, but he won't take advantage of Anka. And he's never sexist, nor does he hit women who aren't combat-capable. He may be hideously culturally insensitive, and assume that the bomber is "Beardsley McTurbanHead" (actually a Sikh), but if someone starts flat-out using racist slurs or starting a racist diatribe, he'll stop them with a little lecture on why racism is bad. He's also downright horrified when Calzado shoots a Bengal Tiger, calling it a murder.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The unaired first episode on the DVD is just the first episode with Archer replaced by a Dinosaur.
- Evil Cripple: Franny Delaney, The Irish Mob boss who bilks cancer patients out of their medicine and pockets the profits.
- Exactly What I Aimed At: Cyril in "Tragical History"
- Exact Words: Archer, Pirate King, defeats a challenger using a gun. The other pirates say the challenge is meant to be hand-to-hand combat, but there is nothing in the "Pirate Orientation Guide" that explicitly forbids armed combat.
- Sterling Archer shares the same sense of style and love of prostitutes as Xander Crews in Thompson and Reed's previous show Frisky Dingo. There's also the ISIS employee who's a chubby hobbit cosplayer
- Jessica Walter plays an old, wealthy, overbearing mother with a drinking problem, and Judy Greer plays a Plucky Office Girl who happens to harbor a dark side, the same roles as their characters in Arrested Development. Creator Adam Reed has described the show as James Bond meets Arrested Development.
- Family Versus Career: Averted.
- Fan Disservice: Pam, Malory and a German chubby-chaser in a threesome.
- Fight Clubbing: The reason Pam is able to take such a brutal beating at the hands of her kidnappers? She paid for college with her (lethal) underground fighting bouts. She also uses that experience to lay a brutal smackdown upon Malory for lowballing her ransom.
- Flanderization: Cheryl, goes from being an insecure and slightly unhinged secretary to a full-blown maniac. Pam is reverse-flanderized, going from the tubby, unloved and rather pathetic HR lady to a fight-clubbing sexual goddess.
- Foreign Cuss Word: Katya is fond of "bozhe moi!" ("my God!").
- Forgotten Birthday: Played unusually straight as the setup for "Drift Problem".
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Almost every episode has at least one visual gag or joke somewhere in the background. Blink and you'll miss it.
- Freudian Excuse: Archer's dysfunction is a result of growing up with a negligent and outright abusive mother, as revealed in a number of flashbacks to his traumatic childhood. She abandoned him until the age of five, then sent him off to 12 straight years of boarding school. Other examples include abandoning him on Christmas Eve with no way to get home, taking all of his Halloween candy from him in a poker game, and giving him liquor at a young age. After several flashbacks, various characters admit that it "explains a lot" about Archer's personality.
- Full Name Ultimatum: "Sterling Malory Archer, you will eat every crumb of that sandwich..."
- Funny Background Event:
- Pause on pretty much any shot in the ISIS offices. especially in Krieger's lab; pay attention to the bin labels.
- In "The Rock", when the Drones are discussing a strike, Lana says "No unions!" and Krieger shouts "Confederacy forever!"
- The Cuban hit squad smiles and waves at Burt Reynolds right before opening fire in "The Man From Jupiter".
- Fun with Acronyms: A little Religious and Mythological Theme Naming.
- ISIS stands for International Secret Intelligence Service. Isis is the Egyptian goddess of fertility, and everyone in the office Really Gets Around.
- ODIN stands for Organization of Democratic Intelligence Networks. The Norse god Odin was The Spymaster. He also gave up one eye in return for incredible knowledge; Barry, one of the few ODIN agents ever seen becomes crippled and loses an eye, then gets turned into a superhuman cyborg.
- Gainaxing: Lana.
- Gargle Blaster: Green Russians - absinthe and milk.
- The Ghost: Brett and Popeye started out this way but eventually started making appearances. Trudy Beekman is still an example at the end of Season 2, having been frequently mentioned by Malory but never appearing.
- A Glass in the Hand:
- Malory breaks the last of her Steuben glass set in frustration when Nicholai hangs up on her in "Dial M For Mother".
- Archer drops one when Woodhouse calls him to inform him his car's been stolen. By the time he gets down there to see for himself, he has a new glass of Scotch... which he promptly drops when he sees the car's been stolen.
- Gene Hunt Interrogation Technique: Archer's interrogation style during Placebo Effect.
- Genius Ditz: Sterling is pretty incompetent in most things, but he's the best field agent there is. He's also incredibly slow on the uptake on a number of occasions, but he also displays a surprisingly hefty education, apparently coming from his years at a boarding school. In one exchange that exemplifies the dichotomy, he overhears two mooks on a space station make an Animal Farm reference. Archer knows that Animal Farm is "an allegorical novella about Stalinism by George Orwell," but thought they were talking about an actual animal farm.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
Krieger: I thought you said start slacking off.
Carol: Not slacking off.
- Gossipy Hens: Pam is a notorious gossip.
- Goggles Do Nothing: Subverted. Sterling's miscalibrated night vision goggles blinded him when he and Lana were suddenly hit with floodlights.
- It's become a running gag that if he puts the night vision goggles on, he's gonna get flashed with a bright light and be in pain.
- Gilligan Cut: In Placebo Effect:
Irish mobster: Go ahead and shoot me! Cuz ain't nuthin in the world can make me talk!
Archer: You say that...
(cut to Irish Mobster handcuffed to poker table, pants around his ankles, having a 'smoke grenade' shoved up his ass)
- Government Agency of Fiction: ISIS.
- ISIS (as well as ODIN, and possibly even the KGB) actually appears to operate in the free-market, without any link to the government. Since the series is vaguely in an alternate universe, it's hard to be sure-- but if they were receiving any taxpayer dollars, you'd think it would have come up by now.
Pam: Can [Malory] really sell ISIS? Aren't we owned by, like, the government, or something?
Cheryl: Yeah, I've never been totally clear on that.
- The Graduate Homage Shot: Close, the ending of Skin Game has a shot for shot of the last scene of The Graduate replaced with Bionic Barry and Katya.
- Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: Malory thinks this of herself, as seen in "Lo Scandalo."
- Gratuitous French: "Jeu Monegasque". Many of the agents use it, and while Sterling knows the least, several people make fun of Lana's issues with pronunciation.
- Gratuitous German: A pair of assassins is German and one episode centers around a German millionaire and his daughter, both of whom use a lot of random German words. Doesn't mean their pronunciation is spot-on, though.
- Gratuitous Italian: Thrown around a lot in "Lo Scandalo", in which Malory orders the ISIS crew to help her dispose the body of the Italian prime minister (and her lover of 35 years); at one point, 'puttana' (Italian for 'bitch') is even used.
- Half-Human Hybrid: That'll do, Pigly. That will do.
- Aww, Goatly.
- Handsome Lech: Even if you're a hetero dude, you have to admit that Archer isn't exactly ugly... on the outside, at least.
- Hard Head: Deconstructed. Being knocked unconscious for a whole hour? Super bad for you.
- Have a Gay Old Time: (in a World War One flashback)
Woodhouse: I'm so glad you're all right. I'm a...
Reggie: Have you got one? Dying for a smoke.
- Head-Tiltingly Kinky: In the episode "Heart of Archness", Archer has just woken up from a wild night with two nubile island girls. The room is border-line Destructo-Nookie and there are hand prints everywhere, which leads him to comment:
Archer: And what position was that?!? Did the missionaries never make it down here?
- Heh, Heh, You Said "X": One character in "Jeu Monegasque" is named Benoit. Which sounds a little too much like "Ben Wa" (balls), a sex toy. Archer points this out at every opportunity.
- Her Codename Was Mary Sue: In "Movie Star," Malory's given the script to a spy thriller for consultation purposes. She quickly sets about cutting herself in as "Malory Steel," a sexy intelligence head in her 50s, and quickly needs Cyril's help in keeping the script straight.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Katya pushes both herself and an out-for-revenge Barry off of Archer's terrace to prevent Barry from choking Archer to death. Unfortunately, it's in vain as Barry survives without a scratch due to his new cybernetic implants. And Krieger's van is crushed as well.
- Historical In-Joke:
- In a flashback Woodhouse reads a telegram to a young Sterling, saying: "Ajax a Success! Tehran is ours! Merry X-mas from Mommy and Uncle Kermit." Operation Ajax was the 1953 CIA backed coup to restore the Shah to power in Iran, headed by CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt.
- Likewise, Malory was involved in Operation Gladio, which allegedly did turn into a crypto-fascist shitshow. "Thanks, Holly Hindsight."
- Honey Pot: Archer loves the Honey Pot. Except when he has to portray a homosexual man.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: "El Contador", including using the phrase word-for-word.
- Hypocritical Humor: A Canadian terrorist in "The Limited" accuses Archer of being a racist repeatedly. Why? Well, he's American...
- I Did What I Had to Do: You want to terraform Mars and don't know where to start? First off, hire a private contractor (with no previous loyalties) to ensure the success of a mutiny and then abduct the women to help with speeding up the population of Mars. After, of course, making sure they're of good breeding stock
- I'm a Humanitarian: When a party conversation casually turns to cannibalism, Woodhouse mentions that African tribes call it "long pig" and that he "never cared for it."
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Archer is reluctantly convinced into this when Bionic!Katya takes off with Barry.
- I Want You to Meet An Old Friend of Mine: Lots, without comment. For instance, two actresses from Arrested Development feature in the main cast, joined by Jeffery Tambor in another. Also, Thomas Lennon, who co-starred on Reno 911 with Aisha Tyler (where she played his long-lost sister).
- I Would Say If I Could Say: Mallory's "I'm not so crass as to say I told you so at a time like this, but tell you I most certainly did!"
- Imagine Spot
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Soviet soldiers in Whiteout can't hit anything, to the frustration of their commanding officer. Archer Lampshades this.
Jeez, these guys cannot hit anything.
- I Never Said I Worked for ISIS: Archer pulls this on himself in the third season premiere.
- In the Local Tongue: The yakuza drift racers call Pam 'Shiro Kabocha' and tell her it means 'white shadow,' when it really translates to 'white pumpkin'
- Instant AI, Just Add Water: Subverted in "Tragical History":
Malory: Just turn off the mainframe.
Lana: (holds up an unplugged power cord) Yeah, we tried that.
Malory: Then how is it still on?
Krieger: Because the worm has turned the mainframe...into a sentient being.
(dramatic musical sting)
Krieger: I'm kidding. There's a battery backup.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: The finalists in the qualifying heat at Monaco are Bell, Bivens, and Devoe.
- Ink Suit Actor: Averted for most of the main characters, who are based on Atlanta-area models. Malory and Len Trexler both resemble their voice actors, however. Lana Kane was drawn designed before the casting of voice actress Aisha Tyler, and their resemblance is a coincidence.
- The Season 2 DVD extra "L'Espion Mal Fait" ("The Badly Made Spy") shows what would happen if Archer had a horrible accident and the doctors clumsily rebuilt him... looking like H. Jon Benjamin.
- Insecurity System: ISIS headquarters has roof access with an unlocked screen door.
Archer: Wow...our security actually kind of sucks.
- Insistent Terminology: Frequently;
- It's a rigid airship powered by helium.
- It's not Seamus. It's The Wee Baby Seamus.
- Ray's brother isn't a drug dealer, he's a drug farmer.
- Nikolai Jakov, head of the KGB.
- It's YY ZED
- Interplay of Sex and Violence: Leads to Barry and Katya hooking up.
- Interrupted Intimacy: Lana walks in on Cyril and Framboise.
- There's a Running Gag of showing flashbacks in which Archer and Lana are interrupted by a phone call from Malory.
Lana:Wanna do it again and put on some interracial porn?
Lana: No, baby don't answer it.
Archer: I have to, sorry, it's Mother...Turn it on, I can do both. (Beat) What?
- Invention Pretension: Archer claims to have invented turtlenecks. When pressed he claims to have simply popularized them as tactical dress for covert missions, but when distracted or drunk he more passionately claims to have invented them.
- Inventor of the Mundane: Archer claims his mother is a millionaire for inventing splashless urinal cakes to entice some pirates.
- The Irish Mob: The villains in "Placebo Effect"
- Ironic Echo: "Just the tip!"
- The ending of "Movie Star" has: "...and?"
- The ending of "Space Race" has: "Welcome to the... danger zone." It's not a real echo, but Archer was trying to goad Commander Drake into saying it earlier in the episode.
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": "Bloody Ferlin" reveals that Ray Gillette's name is pronounced "gillet" with a hard "g" by everyone else in his family.
- Jail Bait: Even Archer has his limits.
Malory "For god's sake, Sterling, she's turning seventeen!
Archer "Oh, ew, sorry."
Lana "Even for you, Archer."
Archer "Come on, she doesn't look like she's turning seventeen."
Lana "No, she looks like she's turning eighteen."
Archer "Exactly! Plus, the Europeans use the metric system, so..."
- The Jeeves: Woodhouse. The name may be a reference to author P. G. Wodehouse, the creator of the original Jeeves character.
- Jerkass: Archer's unrepentant asshole behavior is mostly what sells the show. It's been heavily implied that his jerkass personality is the result of growing up with a neglectful, jet-setting spy for a mother.
- Karma Houdini: Several villains over the course of the show get away scot-free thanks to the incompetence of the ISIS agents. Most of the ISIS agents themselves qualify as well.
- Kavorka Man: Cyril is revealed to be a sex addict and can't stop sleeping with a series of different women. Supposedly because Bigger Is Better in Bed.
- Kick the Dog: Even Archer didn't deserve to be told back and forth that he was cancer free, then told he had it, then told he was cured again, then told he had it again. And then have his fiance dropped off a roof by Barry in Double Trouble.
- Klingon Promotion: Apparently, this is the first rule of being a pirate.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: Archer appears to have shades of this, judging by his concern for Babou the ocelot, as well as his surprising empathy for a Bengal Tiger.
- Kinda Busy Here: All the time, to the point of being a Running Gag. Especially given the agents' choice in ringtones.
- Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: Krieger's virtual girlfriend, who is "so real the state of New York is allowing him to legally marry her."
- Klingon Promotion: Archer becomes the new captain of a group of Pirates after killing their current captain.
- The Knights Who Say Squee: Archer meeting his hero Burt Reynolds, and going on to list almost every film he's ever been in. Only to be horribly shocked to find out he's dating Mallory.
- Kung Shui:
- Invoked: Ramon claims to have bought Claymore mines, not to frag Archer, but for redecorating. Though he may have been lying...
- The inevitable showdown of Bionic!Katya and Bionic!Barry. Unfortunately leads to Slap Slap Kiss.
- Lady Drunk: Malory.
- Ladykiller in Love: Sterling, with Katya.
- Lame Comeback: Used a lot. For example, in "Tragical History":
- Lampshade Hanging: Oh so very much.
- In an episode centered on their troubled relationship. Cyril and Lana stop bickering and work together to push a bomb off their
blimprigid airship, then embrace and exclaim, "We made it! We made it, baby!" as the rigid airship soars. In the background, Archer proclaims, "Hooray for metaphors!"
- "Skorpio": surrounded by Mooks, Archer pulls out a grenade seemingly from nowhere:
- In an episode centered on their troubled relationship. Cyril and Lana stop bickering and work together to push a bomb off their
Lana: Where'd you get a grenade?
Archer: Hanging from the lampshade!
- Last-Name Basis: Everyone except Malory (who uses either his first name, or Full Name Ultimatum) refers to Archer by his last name.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
Cyril: What is this, a spy comedy?
Cyril: Because that has been done.
- Lemming Cops: "The Man From Jupiter".
- Like an Old Married Couple: Archer and Lana, especially in season two.
- Little Stowaway: Adult version (well... Adult Child version); Pam and Cheryl stow away on a space flight, largely as an excuse to put the comic relief characters in the episode even though it's implausible enough that the main cast are there...
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Archer.
- The real littlest cancer patient was Ruth in "Placebo Effect".
- Lock and Load Montage: Invoked for intimidation purposes, lampshaded and parodied all at once;
Archer: Do you get it? Because I swear to god, I will strip back down and show you all over again-
Pharmacist: Yeah I get it, I get it! You have a lot of guns!
Archer: And a knife!
- The Ludovico Technique: Lampshaded when they use it to put Trexler off marrying Malory - it's referred to as a "modified Ludovico".
- Mad Scientist: Krieger, the head of ISIS' research department who was engaged to a hologram and has a penchant for creating sex robots and genetic mutants.
- Made of Iron:
- Archer has taken everything from shots to the foot, leg, and chest, drilled through his brain, and even suffered through limb-shattering car accidents. Not only is the recovery near-instant (i.e. by the next episode), but he seems to have insanely high thresholds of pain, speaking with nonchalance despite growing blood loss and trauma. Taken to the extreme in "Dial M for Mother" where he takes 6 .45 rounds to the chest, and only minutes later (with no medical treatment) is casually complimenting the shooter on their tight grouping. He also willfully drinks scotch with shards of glass in it with complete disregard.
- Averted with Brett, who has been shot four times. He is seen walking with a cane, and Malory derisively calls him 'Mr. Blood Bank.' Since "Drift Problem", he now seems to recognize his role in the show.
- Barry, being a cyborg, a fact that Archer continuously forgets.
- Malaproper: Archer. "Cry havoc, and let slip the hogs of war!"
- Man Child: Sterling is a beacon of immaturity.
- Manly Gay: Gillette's high school bully in West Virginia turns out to be gay, while also being a hard-nosed sheriff.
- The Magazine Rule: Barry reads Desert Eagle magazine. Talk about Weapon of Choice...
- Masochist's Meal: "The secret ingredient... is phone."
- Maternally Challenged: Have you been paying attention?
- May-December Romance: Uta and Manni, German assassins. Uta is 19, while Manni looks like Revolver Ocelot from Metal Gear.
- Meaningful Name: Bionic Barry gets into the US under the alias "Sy Berg".
- Military Alphabet: Archer doesn't get it.
Archer: The first letter is "B".
Archer: Thank you.
- Mini-Mecha: The spaceship has a yellow Power Loader exactly like the one from Aliens on board.
- Mistaken for Gay: Archer and Woodhouse:
Woodhouse: And this is Sterling Archer, my...
Stinky: None of my business. Consenting adults and all that.
Archer: Wha...hey! No one's consenting to anything!
Stinky: None of my business.
- Mood Whiplash: In "Crossing Over", Jakov is killed by Barry and it's completely Archer's fault for ditching his bodyguard duties to have great sex. Well, not that great, as Pam takes the time to point out.
- Mushroom Samba: Pam, Cheryl and Ray take some of Krieger's special "herbal cleanse" to pass a drug test. They start hallucinating, with Pam seeing Ray as a Decepticon, Ray seeing Pam melt, and Cheryl seeing the bathroom floor turn to lava.
- My Beloved Smother: Archer's mother Malory. When a bad guy takes Malory hostage in the pilot and taunts him about how he's going to murder her, Archer immediately gets an erection ("Just half of one! The other half would have... really missed you.") and the taunt backfires. He later bonds with a Cuban target over their shared hatred of their Smothers.
- My Friends and Zoidberg: "I'm making peace with my loved ones...and some other people."
- My Name Is Not Durwood: Archer called Cheryl "Carol" so many times that she legally changed it just so he would be right. This led to a running gag where she would change her name every episode until the writers presumably got tired of it. For awhile the joke was that she had changed it so many times she forgot what it was, and now it's back to people calling her Carol instead of Cheryl.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Archer's name is evoked in this fashion by a lot of the bad guys on the show. Admittedly, this is not helped by the fact that Archer doesn't get the idea of anonymity as a spy.
- Never a Self-Made Woman: Inverted. It's said Sterling relies on his mother for employment. Played straight in "Blood Test," when the revelation that Archer might have a kid leads Pam and Cheryl to start needling Lana.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Cheryl has a death fetish and fantasizes about men strangling her to death. She insists that her lovers choke her during sex.
- No Hero to His Valet: Archer is a pretty big asshole to just about everyone, but he gets absolutely sadistic to Woodhouse, whom he treats like an abused pet. In his Character Blog, he explains the difference between a butler and a valet: "A valet will shave you anywhere.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Brett decided it would be funny to mock Archer for possibly having breast cancer. Archer promptly beats him 6 shades of senseless.
- No Indoor Voice: Just about every character will scream in any given scene. Lana and Archer are particular examples, especially Archer's "Lana... Lana... LANA!" gag.
- Non-Action Guy: Cyril, Krieger and Pam don't really have any combat skills, though they can go crazy occasionally. Pam is ultimately revealed to be a Hidden Badass and occasionally demonstrates feats of impressive strength as well.
- Non-Idle Rich: Surprisingly, Cheryl, who works a day job despite being richer than Croesus. In some episodes after the reveal, she seems to be a bit fuzzy on the whole concept of money.
- Noodle Incident: Several:
- Lana describing "that thing with the mayonnaise" as one of the reasons she dumped Archer.
- Archer's conception is tied to three noodle incidents scenario A (potential dad Len Drexler, a hotel in Berlin, and Malory Archer doing something so shocking that she got thrown out of the hotel) and scenario B (potential dad Nikolai Jackov, the legendary "Bridge of Spies" in Berlin, and something that caused Malory to flee Berlin and unable to contact Nikolai for the entire nine months she was pregnant) and scenario C (possible dad Buddy Rich having sex with Malory).
- In "Job Offer," we see Barry and Lana in a situation involving the two being put on top of each other buck naked (with Barry sexually penetrating Lana in the process) while being threatened with a laser beam.
- Pam's vacation to Jamaica in season two; she comes back with a tan and rasta gear/pot which she openly smokes and comments about being deported back to the US for some unstated reason.
- An undisclosed series of incidents involving the abuse of an undisclosed office perk that Malory threatens to lock up so no one can partake of it, in episode 103. This might be a Running Gag based on Krieger having sex with the food in the fridge, as revealed in the first episode and obliquely referenced throughout the first season.
- Both Malory and Lana, in separate incidents, had to kill a man in Tunisia...for some reason.
- The 'Popeye incident,' mentioned in Job Offer resulted in Archer having to install a bulletproof door.
- Gillette has revealed to have had a rather rough patch in his life, where among other things, he tried to renounce his homosexuality via joining a religious group designed to deprogram homosexuals and was paired up with a fellow reformed lesbian, who he had a brief marriage with.
- Deconstructed with Malory wearing an eye patch the first time she met her son after shipping him off to the US with Woodhouse (who raised Archer); Malory comments that she doesn't remember why she had the eye patch on. Becomes sort of a Running Gag in flashbacks.
- Not So Different: When protecting an underage German heiress, she and Archer have a conversation about how her father never really cared about her, sending her to boarding schools, different camps and so on. And that she acts out to get attention, and how she's insecure and doesn't have any friends, so she overcompensates and comes off as arrogant.
Archer "Yeah, I get it, Anka!
Anka "You know, I think you and I are a lot alike, Archer."
Archer "I don't do that!"
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Archer plays off the prostitute he hires as his date at the dinner party for Utne to be this.
Lana: What does she drive, a Snuffleupagus?
- Not That Kind of Doctor: When they need someone who can do brain surgery, Cyril points out Krieger isn't a medical doctor.
Cyril: "But we'd need a doctor!"
Cheryl: "So? Krieger's a doctor."
Cyril: "Not the medical kind!"
Krieger: "Not even the other kind, technically."
- Episode 11 of season 2, seems to indicate that Doctor is his first name.
- Not What It Looks Like: Pretty much the whole plot of the season 2 premiere "Swiss Miss." And it actually wasn't what it looked like - even Archer has some standards.
- O Positive: In "Heart of Archness" pt.3, Ray is seriously wounded and needs a blood transfusion, but he's O Positive, Lana, Rip Riley, and Bucky are all A Negative, and Archer doesn't know his blood type. Fortunately, Noah is also O Positive.
- Oh Crap: Literally, in "Honeypot" when Archer plants a claymore mine in front of the previously-confident assassins.
- Offhand Backhand: Archer does this with a net to catch grenades being thrown at him in 'Heart of Archness, Part II.'
- Office: Actually makes up a large part of the humor at ISIS.
- Oh God, with the Verbing!: "Oh God, with the curry again... this shirt smells like Indira Gandhi's thong."
- Omniglot: Seems to be a standard bit of ISIS training, leading to a lot of Bilingual Bonuss. Archer knows Portuguese, but not Spanish.
- One Bullet Left:
- Cyril, in 'Tragical History', following his Exactly What I Aimed At moment. It works as a threat, but he's subsequently surprised to find out the gun was actually empty.
- Malory in the season 2 finale. Archer convinces her not shoot Katya with it. When she does use it against cyborg-Barry it has no effect.
- One-Liner, Name. One-Liner.:
- One of Us: In spite of spending most of his time drinking, whoring and killing, Archer has a surprisingly detailed pop culture reference pool that includes some pretty geeky topics. Few others seem to share his interests, and he's always getting annoyed when no one else gets his references. He still looks down on The Lord of the Rings, however.
- Overt Operative: Maybe Archer'd have less of a problem with villains revealing that they know that he is "Sterling Archer of ISIS" if he stopped using it as a pickup line at bars and parties.
Malory: Most secret agents don't go around telling every harlot from here to Hanoi that they are secret agents!
Sterling: ...then why be one?
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: The password is always "guest." The ISIS security mainframe Cyril's Swiss bank account both use it. Archer lampshades how stupid this is.
- Phone Trace Race: In the episode where Pam gets kidnapped, ISIS tries to trace the call from the kidnappers. When Archer asks how long it will take, Gillette tell him two minutes. Archer points out that this seems like an unusually long time for a super-spy agency. Gillette chalks it up to budget cuts due to Malory buying an expensive table.
- Phrase Catcher:
- "Barry, you ass!"
- Also in Jeu Monegasque, "Benoit." "Balls!"
- "This is classic her..." (about Malory)
- Ping-Pong Naivete: While Archer is usually a Bunny Ears Lawyer who's able to deal with spy work competently while being a complete moron in every other area, sometimes the stupidity bleeds into his work for the sake of the Rule of Funny; for example, completely missing a parachute dropzone only to land in the wrong country.
- Pity Sex:
- In the first season finale, when Lana takes pity on Pam and sleeps with her.
- In season two, Archer uses his cancer to guilt Lana into sleeping with him.
- Playing Against Type: Ron Perlman as a gay Cuban spy in "Honeypot".
- Plucky Office Girl: Pam. Taken Up to Eleven with Cheryl.
- Preemptive Declaration: "You hear that?" "Hear what?" "That crunching noise!" (headbutt)
- Product Placement: Yes, yes, Archer has a Dodge Challenger.
Lana: How much did Dodge kick in?
Malory: (acidly) Not as much as you'd think.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Cheryl is a cross between types D and E.
- Punch Clock Villain: In "Honey Pot" and "Movie Star"
- Punctuated Pounding: When a co-worker mocks Sterling's breast cancer. "I'm trying! To stay positive! Both mentally! And spiritually!"
- Punny Name:
- "Major" Nikolai Jakov of the KGB. He wears a lieutenant general's insignia, but everyone calls him "Major."
- Fister Roboto.
- Pyromaniac: Cheryl mentioned watching a building burn down in "Stage Two", was seen lighting a dumpster on fire in "El Secuestro", and took delight in burning the corpses of Torvald Utne and Elke Hubsch in "Killing Utne".
- Queer People Are Funny
- Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Averted. Characters routinely talk over one another, leave gaps, talk with, like, filler words, and stumble over forgotten one liners.
- Really Gets Around: The entire cast. Archer has a lot of sex throughout the show. He likely picked up his promiscuity from Malory, given how many candidates for his father there are. Cheryl, Pam, and Cyril are not far behind. Basically Everybody Has Lots of Sex. Even Krieger has opportunities to indulge his many unspeakable fetishes.
- Retired Badass:
- Woodhouse won the Victoria Cross and apparently scalped enough Germans to make a blanket.
- Malory, who was once a decorated international spy. In present day, Lana still finds it suspicious when Malory claims that she missed hitting some assassins with a three-round burst of pistol fire.
- Retro Universe: The show is set in an indeterminate time period that has aspects of the 60's through the present day. Characters often make references to modern and historic events as if they are current, making it impossible to determine when the show takes place.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
- Woodhouse had one one for Reggie, his wartime buddy.
- Archer himself goes on one to take down the makers of counterfeit cancer medication. He even makes sure to say "rampaaage!" a lot.
Lana: Wait, you're just gonna leave him with a grenade stuck up his ass?
Archer: Yes Lana, I'm on a rampage!
- Robosexual: Dr. Krieger built a sexbot named "Fister Roboto", a "choke-bot", and a virtual girlfriend so realistic that the state of New York is allowing him to legally marry.
- Running Gag: At least One Per Episode, with lots of nods back to previous ones and several constantly recurring ones.
- Archer constantly says "Danger Zone!" to Lana when they're talking about their relationship, copying a quip she made to him once.
- In the first few episodes, Cheryl constantly changes her name. Close captioning even shows her name as Cheryl/Caryl. However, she stays Cheryl by the second season.
- Malory saying, "Two weeks later, I was in Tunisia, killing a man." Lana later riffs on it by saying, "Two weeks later, I was in Tunisia, killing a different man."
- Characters describing things Malory or Sterling does as "classic her/him".
- Cheryl's death fantasies and erotic asphyxiation fetish.
- Characters getting caught having sex, with a background character offering a polite "Hello!"
- Lana's large stature and giant hands.
- The office-wide usage of, "This is why we can't have nice things!"
- "I can't." "Can't, or won't?" "...Either?"
- The ISIS carpets being filthy, prompting, "And that's how you get ants!"
- "Hostile work environment!"
- "And I suppose that makes it better!" "...doesn't it?"
- Blaming Scatterbrain Jane for everything.
- Archer being shot in the foot.
- Archer flubbing his Bond One-Liner. "Looks like you're.. um.. dammit I had something for this! Oh well. Eat grenade, stupid!"
- Mocking Barry for his bad leg.
- Cell phones ringing during sensitive top secret missions, complete with loud obnoxious ring tones.
- "... or whom?"
- One particular office member getting hit with every stray gunshot.
- Archer saying "Phrasing!" to point out Accidental Innuendo.
- "Also, yes."
- Barry having a conversation with himself, which he calls Other Barry.
- The password for any computer security system being 'Guest'.
- Archer making an obscure reference and being pissed off that nobody gets it.
- "YUP!" and "NOPE!"
- "Lana? Lana. Lana! LANAAAAAAA!!!" "WHAT?!"
- Certain agents temporarily going deaf from guns being fired off near them or being close to an an explosion. Lampshaded when Lana even had to make a quick stop to her ear specialist during Archer's Roaring Rampage of Revenge episode because he fired a shotgun near her.
- Archer's overly-elaborate voicemail pranks as of Season Three. In one episode he has to state the time and date before anyone will believe that it's not a recording.
- Ruthless Modern Pirates: Rip Riley and Archer are kidnapped by a group of pirates in the season three premiere.
- Sadist Show: Just about everyone in this show is a sociopath. Even poor buttmonkey Woodehouse once dabbled in cannibalism.
- Sassy Black Woman: Lana is an angry sassy black woman.
- Savage Setpiece: When Pam gets kidnapped in Cheryl's place, we find out she paid for college as an underground bareknuckle boxer. By the end of the episode, even Lana doesn't want to fight her.
- Say My Name: Archer to Barry after the later kills Katya
- Secretly Wealthy: Turns out that Cheryl is worth almost $500 million now that her parents are dead. She still won't pay back Cyril the $3,200 she owes him because she physically burned the money, so she "doesn't have it anymore."
- Sensual Slavs: Archer's ex-KGB girlfriend. She survives for all of two episodes, but is later brought back as a cyborg.
- Shaped Like Itself:
- Malory: "Well then you're as stupid as you are dumb!"
- Archer: "Does this look as bad as it looks?"
- Shout-Out: So many, they have their own page.
- Ship Sinking: Lana/Cyril are deepsixed in the last two episodes of season one.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Woodhouse seems to have this for Reggie Thistleton. In "Honey Pot," Charles and Rudy make a remark about Woodhouse not being gay, and he corrects them not by saying he is gay but by mentioning Reggie Thistleton. He elaborates on his relationship with Reggie in "Double Deuce," including his death on the battlefield. The only other indication of any kind of love/sex life at all is in that same episode when he's in bed with two women on a drug running ship...and he's openly pining for Reggie. He then delivers Archer and becomes his butler-for-life.
- Slap Slap Kiss:
- The only thing Lana and Archer still have in common is sexual tension. Otherwise, they are constantly at each others' throats.
- Barry and Katya
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: One of the main reasons for why the show uses Cold War-centric villains (the Cubans, Russia, the Red Army Faction, and the IRA) is due to Adam Reed's notion that Islamic Terrorism would be too dark a subject to deal with in a comedy, while the KGB and their ilk would harken the audience back to a simpler time where you had two sides engaging in battle with full knowledge that neither side would go all out, out of fear of wiping out the entire world.
- Smoke Out: Parodied in "Space Race" -- Krieger escapes from an awkward situation by suddenly yelling "SMOKEBOMB!" and running away while everyone's stunned into silence.
- Snark to Snark Combat: Everyone, pretty much all the time.
- Spiritual Successor: To Frisky Dingo.
- Spit Take: Gleefully invoked by Lana in "Drift Problem".
- Spy Fiction: Apple-Tini flavored.
- Stating the Simple Solution: Ray in "Skytanic," when Archer manages to speed up the timer on the bomb. When asked what to do, he replies "I don't know, throw it off the blimp?"
- Stealth Insult: Woodhouse to Archer, possibly:
Archer: How could she pick Lana over me?
Woodhouse: The mind fairly boggles.
Archer: Was that sarcasm?
Woodhouse: No, sir.
Archer: Good, because your opinion matters. And in case you aren't clear on the concept, that was sarcasm.
Woodhouse: Well played!
Archer: Thank you. (long pause) Thank you.
- Steel Ear Drums: Averting this trope is a Running Gag.
- Sting: Running Gag in "Skorpio" (wah wah!)
- Suspiciously Specific Denial:
- Tag-Along Actor: One shadows Lana who turns out to be a Russian sleeper agent.
- Tap on the Head: Averted in "White Nights". Archer knocks Ray out with a punch, and then comments that he should see a neurologist, because getting knocked unconscious is really unhealthly. The next scene, Ray tells ISIS that he got knocked out, and Lana tells him he should see a neurologist. He already has an appointment.
- Take That: "Karate? The Dane Cook of martial arts? No."
- Theme Pairing: in-universe; Bionic!Barry and Bionic!Katya
- A Threesome Is Hot:
- No, not really considering it involved Pam and Malory, as well as a German chubby-chaser.
- Same with the two-man three-way in Skorpio.' At one point, Archer apparently burst into tears.
Archer: Wooden spoons are a huge emotional trigger for me, Lana!
- Throwing Off the Disability: A couple of times;
- Amputee Barry is rebuilt as a KGB cyborg.
- Wheelchair-bound Gillette was faking the whole thing.
- Tontine: The plot of "Double Deuce" revolves around this, as Woodhouse is one of the last three surviving members of one and other members die mysteriously As it turns out, the whole thing was a Red Herring, as the supposed bad guy didn't care about it. Pam starts a tontine at the office as well, since active agents can get killed in the line of duty and the control room "Is one big asbestos lawsuit waiting to happen".
- Too Kinky to Torture: Cheryl, who is turned on by the thought of being murdered. When asked what would happen if she actually got killed, she replies, "The world's gushiest orgasm?" She's particularly interested in getting strangled, but also gets off on being beaten up by Lana.
- Too Much Information:
Lana: Just what do we know about this Conway?
Archer: Only that he's not circumcised.
Lana: OK...glossing over how exactly you know that...
Archer: We touched penises.
Lana: No! Glossing!
- Traintop Battle: Thoroughly deconstructed in "The Limited"; Archer's always wanted to do it but never realised the many, many impracticalities.
- Trademark Favorite Food: It's subtle, but Pam loves her some bear claws.
- Trouser Space: Archer keeps an extra gun there.
- Tuxedo and Martini
- Twisted Echo Cut: Used frequently.
- Twofer Token Minority: Conway Stern is hired because, as a black Jew, "He's a diversity double whammy!" He's not really Jewish, and Archer even questions whether he's black.)
- Two Scenes, One Dialogue: If a scene that ends with people talking is followed by a scene that opens with people talking, this is going to be used.
- Ultimate Job Security: Averted. Despite Archer's mother being the head of ISIS, she still treats him like her spoiled asshat of a son and a sometimes-incompetent field agent.
- Upperclass Twit: Both Archers take this trope into Crosses the Line Twice territory. For example, Sterling considers it offensive when people don't treat Woodhouse with seething contempt, and Malory dropped the ISIS cleaning ladies down an elevator shaft when they tried to unionize.
- Viewers Are Geniuses:
- The tattoo on Pam's back is an excerpt from Lord Byron's "The Destruction of Sennacherib".
- There's also Archer's reference to Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" and his utter shock that no one gets it.
- Villains Never Lie: Yakuza boss Moto didn't steal Archer's car in "Drift Problem", but Archer calls him on it. Moto smirks and points out that he has no reason to lie.
- We Named the Monkey "Jack": Type 2 - Sterling's codename, "Duchess", comes from Malory's beloved dog of the same name. Malory loved the dog so much she has a naked picture in bed with it imitating the famous John Lennon/Yoko Ono photograph.
- We Can Rebuild Him: Barry.
- Later, Katya
- Weaponized Car: Archer gets one for his birthday that Q-branch would be proud of.
- Wham! Episode: When Barry returns to kill Sterling's father, Major Jakov. And succeeds, leaving Sterling devastated.
- "What the Hell?" Dad: Archer to his infant son!
- What the Hell, Hero?: Pam delivers one to the entire cast at the end of "El Secuestro" for showing a sociopathic lack of concern for her well-being when she gets kidnapped.
- "Drift Problem" is a definite one for Malory. Sterling leaves his beloved Spy Car birthday present unlocked, so she steals it to teach him a lesson in responsibility. Said lesson doesn't involve giving it back. She sold it to Popeye.
- Often during a high-stress mission, other members of the team will frequently give one to Archer. Barry does in "White Nights", Lana in "El Contador", and Cyril in "Drift Problem", all because of Archer's ridiculously selfish behavior.
- Where The Black Men At: Malory writing her screenplay about a Middle-aged spy mistress who seduces a Scary Black Man.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Archer's greatest fear is being killed and eaten by an alligator. To that effect, he has looked up and memorized every recorded fatal gator attack in the US. Guess what he meets on a mission in the Louisiana swamps?
- Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Said word-for-word at both ISIS and ODIN on a regular basis.
- Woman in White: Katya Kasanova.
- Women Are Wiser: Mostly averted. Of the few relatively sane characters (Cyril, Gilette and Lana) Lana is the most Hot-Blooded. Played straight when it's just her and Archer, though.
- World of Ham
- World of Snark
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Malory is so insistent in pairing her Mary Sue self-insertion with a black male interest in the reworked script for Disavowed that it draws the inevitable comparison to the 1975 movie Mandingo. Her Hollywood contact finally accepts it under the change of making it a romantic comedy named Mandingo 2.
- X Called. They Want Their Y Back.: Archer is incredulous at Rip's old-fashioned lifestyle.
Rip: This had better not be a ruse.
Archer: A ruse? Brrrring, brrrring! "Hello?" "Hi, it's the 1930's. Can we have our words and clothes and shitty airplanes back? ... Call you back, 1930's! And hey, watch out for that Adolf Hitler. He's a bad egg!
- Yakuza: "Drift Problem".
- You Kill It, You Bought It: In "Heart of Archness" Archer is captured by pirates and kills their captain. By their laws, this makes him the new captain.
- You Wouldn't Shoot Me:
- Spelvin taunts Cyril that he doesn't have it in him to shoot someone.
- Franny Delaney tells Archer he wouldn't kill an unarmed, crippled man. He's wrong.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: When Archer "trains" Cyril to be an agent and surprises him with the unexpected ice cube attack, his reflex is to use the call girl as a human shield to block it. Cyril is mortified when Archer proudly cheers on this untrained reaction.
- Your Cheating Heart: Lana gets this a lot; she dumped Archer for serial adultery in order to hook up with Cyril, whom she deemed to be a safe, loyal boyfriend who would not stray. Which he does, after she catches him with ODIN's hot, French HR manager Framboise, and finds out that he also had sex with Cheryl. And Scatterbrain Jane. And possibly Malory.
- Katya cheats on Archer with Barry on their wedding day right in front of him.
- Zero-G Spot: Archer and Pam in "Space Race Part 1".
... And, that's how you get ants. Yaaaaaaaay.